On a cold February night in 1878, in Wayne County, North Carolina James Worley and his wife, the former Appie Jane Snipes, met their fate at the hands of three former slaves.
A local Goldsboro newspaper reported details: "Again, it is our painful duty to chronicle another most horrible outrage, perpetrated in Fork Township in this county, and this time a double murder ‒ James Worley and his wife, leaving behind three young daughters under five years of age.
"There were pools of blood around the lifeless bodies, presenting one of the most heart-rending spectacles ever witnessed in North Carolina."
The tragedy garnered national attention. From a leading New York publication: "There have been more murders committed in Wayne County since the war (Civil War) than in any dozen other counties in the state, but this murder is the most appalling ever committed in North Carolina."
The victims were well acquainted with the accused killers and frequently invited them inside their home to "sit and warm a spell." Why, then, would those "guests" turn against them? Was this a random act of violence or was there a more sinister motive? Was it a robbery? Revenge for having been enslaved? Rape? Jealousy? Or evil promptings by the Devil?
Lynchings were a simple and speedy way to insure "justice" in those days. Many local citizens clamored for it. Did the sheriff turn a blind eye to their wishes or were they granted a fair trial?
What became of the orphaned sisters? Did they continue as a family unit or were they "scattered to the wind?"
Today Appie Jane and James Worley's posterity numbers into the hundreds if not thousands. Stories from past generations continue to circulate among those living but after 144 years how many retellings are true and how many are laced with errors?
Two to the grave, Three to the Gallows has been written by one who grew up among them. This is his attempt to set the record straight!